New Hampshire governor pushes for starting the school year after Labor Day
- Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has signed an executive order creating the Save Our Summers Study Commission. The group is charged with evaluating all the pros and cons, education-related and otherwise, of a post-Labor Day school start and suggesting proposed legislation by November, explains the New Hampshire Union Leader.
- In New Hampshire, local school boards have the leeway to come up with the school year calendar as long as the 180-day instruction requirement is met. Some districts manage to hit that mark and start after Labor Day by slightly lengthening classes.
- Many districts in the state have opted for a late-August start this year after losing too many instruction hours to snow in recent years, resulting in a scramble to make them up in May and June.
While school calendars are set, to a large extent, on parent preference, teacher unions, and what neighboring districts are doing, other factors can come into play as well. A notable one is the economic influence of the tourism and entertainment industries, which, for obvious reasons, want to see summer vacations go on as long as possible. Indeed, some states have set requirements on when schools can open, sometimes responding to lobbying by local businesses such as hotels, amusement parks and movie theaters. For instance, school in Virginia can’t start before Labor Day (The state’s start date legislation is actually named after their popular Kings Dominion theme park.) Texas bans most schools from opening any sooner than the fourth Monday in August. In Georgia, though, where there are no such rules, at least one district school is opening as early as July 31.
Schools that do open while summer is still in full swing often attempt to avoid student (and teacher) burnout by closing school for "mini breaks" at other times of the year. Cobb County Schools, the district in Georgia breaking the July barrier, has added week-long breaks in September and February. That tactic, however, might create more problems than it solves for working parents, who may have trouble finding camps or otherwise accommodating their children during these off-beat times. Some parents there have noted that whenever a child transitions from home to school, whether the break has been one week or 12, there is a day or two lost to getting back into the swing of things. The fewer adjustments of that sort, the better, they maintain. (Interestingly, approximately 12,000 parents in Cobb County petitioned against the July 31 start.) And some groups maintain that a later start/longer summer gives teachers more time for continuing education and lesson planning to prepare for each new school year.
There are also the issues of money from summer jobs being lost and, in rural areas, the very real concern of parents who rely on their children to help on small family farms, or farmstand-type businesses, for which the week or two leading up to Labor Day is their busiest time. One dad in New Hampshire lamented that he loses half his staff when school starts. Proponents of earlier starts, however, argue the "summer slide" only gets worse the longer the summer goes on. Another element involved is the extra time an earlier start date gives students to prepare for tests later in the year.
- New Hampshire Union Leader Sununu wants school to start after Labor Day
- The Atlanta-Journal Constitution Yes, the first day of school really does come earlier every year
- Education Commission of the States Instructional Time Trends